Dr Caroline Lange, Project Manager, Cooperants, DLR
Please could you tell us more about your role with DLR and the Cooperants project?
I have been with DLR for 15 years as a researcher, systems engineer and project manager. In those roles, I am working to transform today's practices towards digital and model-based approaches. Today, as a consortium leader / project manager in the COOPERANTS project, I am able to pursue this goal every day. In my role as a systems engineer specialising in (deep space) exploration I have gained 15 years of experience in designing and developing spacecraft, contributing to the MASCOT asteroid lander for Ryugu, which flew on Hayabusa2 in 2018, and testing robotic infrastructure technologies for lunar analogue exploration. Until recently, I was the DLR lead systems engineer of the French-German ‘Idephix’ Phobos-Rover, which is scheduled to launch onboard of the Japanese MMX mission in 2024. When it comes to processes in SE – I have a large inventory terms of optimization potential.
How would you describe the current status of digitalisation within the space industry?
Digitalisation is progressing as quickly in the space industry as everywhere else. So much is happening in terms of technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), data science and methodologies like model-based systems engineering (MBSE). What I have observed though is a lack of organisational and technical interoperability, when it comes to the individual solutions. It requires a kind of linking element that brings it all together. That’s what we are aiming for with COOPERANTS: enabling continuous collaboration by employing the GAIA-X concepts of transparency, openness, data protection and security.
What are the main challenges the space industry is currently facing regarding digitalisation?
Given the current challenges, I am convinced we need to manage the transformation by developing common standards and new infrastructures that enable and ease the collaboration along the whole product lifecycle and supply chain to build spacecraft in a better way and to ultimately build better spacecraft. And surely, we must involve the people in the process. People, processes and technology need to be in sync to be successful.
What do you consider the most promising technology for the space industry in the years to come?
I am excited about the technologies that are currently on the map: micro-launcher in particular, everything we need to (re-)invent to go back to the moon in general. Going beyond the moon is the ultimate goal in terms of exploration. There are challenges here on Earth, though. What I specifically favour is the idea of space technologies tackling challenges here, most prominently climate change. So, it’s important to invest in those new materials, battery technologies, mission concepts and so forth that can have a positive impact on our earthly life.
If you could travel anywhere into space, without the restrictions of time and resources, where would you go, how will you travel there, and why?
For a long time now, I have been fascinated by the questions about the origin of life and intrigued by the possibility to find life somewhere else than on Earth. The Jovian Moon Europa seems to be a very good place to look, especially below the ice – so without any constraints on feasibility, my curious mind would get into a micro-submarine and explore the under-ice ocean there. And while going there would take a little time, I would like to enjoy and see a bit of the rest of the solar system: the way as part of the goal.